Some schools intending to convert to academy status are being told that there are to be no more Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) established in large parts of the South-West. There is no legal obligation for the Department for Education (DfE) to take this stance but it appears to have developed as an unwritten policy. A number of the schools that we at Michelmores are supporting through the academy conversion process have experienced this.
Schools are not explicitly told that they will no longer be allowed to establish a new MAT but certain questions from the DfE are becoming common – schools may be asked whether they have considered all other options that are already available or what reasons they have not to join another MAT.
Why is this position being taken?
To put it simply, it costs public money to set up a MAT. If there is a MAT in your area that you could work with, then the rationale is, why not save public money? If schools feel that there is a need for another MAT, they then need to give compelling justifications; however, this may become increasingly difficult in an area where MAT creation is being discouraged.
Another obstacle when establishing a MAT is personality. The HTB will try and establish whether your reason for not joining an already established MAT is because of conflicting leadership personalities, rather than a conflict in values and ethos.
What should a school consider?
How will the RSC's office test whether there is a conflict in ethos or personalities at HTB? The following questions may be asked:
- Is the new MAT going to be beneficial for the pupils in all of the schools?
- What is the schools' improvement strategy?
- Will the new MAT be financially viable? It is not going to be easy running MATs in the future.
Make sure that you are fully prepared to be scrutinised on your application to establish a MAT.